The Enduring Curse of the Gentlemen Captains
By Captain Raymond J. Brown, U.S. Coast Guard
Federal attorneys within the Department of Commerce's National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have upset and confused the operational law enforcement efforts of Coast Guard cutters patrolling off New England. In cases where a vessel's precise position is critical, NOAA attorneys entrusted with the prosecution of federal fisheries violations—but with little understanding of the art and science of navigation—have downgraded or dismissed illegal incursions in proscribed seaward zones, thereby emboldening additional violators.
Unwittingly, these counselors have trivialized the hardships and dangers undertaken by Coast Guardsmen. While no one in the Coast Guard questions the honorable intentions of their legal colleagues, neither can anyone ignore the disheartening effects. They have lowered morale and diminished the sense of worth of hard-working crews, just as the gentlemen captains of the 17th-century Royal Navy affected morale on the lower decks of His Majesty's ships.